Hundreds of GMB Scotland members at Scottish Water led picket lines across Scotland today as a rolling programme of industrial action begins.
The strikes, threatening to disrupt emergency repairs, testing and maintenance, could easily have been avoided, according to union negotiators.
Claire Greer, GMB Scotland organiser at the public utility, said the strikes, overwhelmingly backed by 83% of members, should have been resolved long before last-ditch talks at conciliation service Acas collapsed in the early hours of Thursday morning.
She said: “It is impossible to underestimate how ineptly the company has handled what should have been a straightforward negotiation.
“It has managed to infuriate a committed workforce and drive them to strike action when the dispute could have easily been resolved months ago."
Greer, who has written to the First Minister urging him to intervene, said Scottish Water could easily have stopped the industrial action, planned across weekends through Christmas and into 2024, by halting its attempt to make this year’s pay offer dependent on the imposition of a new salary structure without negotiation.
She said: “Scottish Water has repeatedly been given a clear choice between doing the right thing and making the situation worse and has taken the wrong decision every single time.
“Its actions over the last six months are a template for how to demoralise staff and demolish industrial relations.
“The priority is to resolve this dispute but then lessons must be learned.”